Weekend escapes with the kids are possible! From rice paddies to elephant camps, water calligraphy lessons to cup noodles making, and an orangutan sanctuary, our friends at Lightfoot Travel have rounded up five top weekend getaways guaranteed to keep your little globetrotters very happy! Pack your bags now!
The charming town of Yangshuo in Guilin, China is where you can find breathtaking karst mountains as seen in just about every Chinese scroll painting! Just 3 hours from Hong Kong – 1.5 hour’s flight followed by a 1.5-hour drive – you and your kiddos will be transported to this picturesque paradise located on the Li River. Think awe-inspiring mountains, tranquil rural villages, brilliant green rice paddies, and the lazily winding river.
DO: Take a cruise down the river on traditional little bamboo boats, bike through the rice paddies to the Marco Polo Bridge, hike up Moon Hill (a short, easy stroll) and look out over the stunning landscape, or try your hand at rock climbing - an activity that Yangshuo is well-known for.
EAT: Guilin is the place to feast on the famous and incredibly smooth rice noodles (Guilin Mi Fen)! Noodle restaurants and stalls line the streets and picking out all the different types of condiments to add to your bowls of steaming hot noodles is a fun experience.
STAY: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat or the Yangshuo Village Inn The Yangshuo Mountain Retreat is the older of these two sister hotels, and is situated right on the Li River. The hotel has a good restaurant and it’s fun to sit outside and watch people rafting past on the river. The Village Inn is in a small village beneath Moon Hill and features an old farmhouse, which house our favorite rooms. Eating breakfast in the orchard each morning is lovely, and there is a nice open restaurant/bar on the roof.
Want something different from the usual haunts of Phuket and Koh Samui in Thailand? Meet Chiang Mai, aka elephant’s paradise! The country’s northern cultural hub is where your gang can get up close to Ellie the elephant in the most entertaining of ways!
DO: There are plenty of fun elephant camps but we have tracked down the best two! Patara Elephant Camp allows little ones to actually learn to care for the gigantic mammals, rather than just observing them doing tricks. Another pick is Family Elephant Day at the Maesa Elephant Camp. Apart from painting paper mache elephants, visit the ‘Poo Poo’ Paper Elephant Factory (bound to get a laugh or two) where kids can take elephant dung and turn it into recycled paper (no odor guaranteed). Got older kids over 12? Hop on the bikes and get a great behind-the-scenes perspective of secret Chiang Mai where you can discover smaller back roads and lesser-known temples.
STAY: The Four Seasons Chiang Mai is one of the higher-end options, but one of the only properties in town that has real facilities for children. Check out Gecko Kid’s Club and cooking school, with tennis and golf for the parents. For an even comfier stay for the family, choose the residences complete with a living area and kitchen.
Discover China’s capital located just a 3-hour flight away! Who knew Beijing could be so fun? The list of activities you can do to soak up in Chinese culture is just endless…
DO: Ready? Take a cable car up to the Great Wall and toboggan or zip line down, or opt for an overnight camper van experience in a more remote section. Join a water calligraphy lesson at the Temple of Heaven, or observe the locals singing, dancing, and doing their crazy exercises (view our hilarious video here). Learn a few market phrases in Mandarin, receive a 100rmb note, and pit parents against children to see who is the bargaining king/queen! Open your eyes at Wangfujing’s snack street and see who has the guts to feast on deep fried locusts, scorpions and all matter of interesting things on sticks.
EAT: Bustling and noisy, Li Qun Roast Duck (+86 6705 5578) is a traditional roast duck restaurant located down a winding, old alleyway, and is a bif favorite amoungst locals and expats alike. Wow the kids with the informality of it – like having the roast ducks hanging up in the brick oven at the entrance. Parents will love the prices, the huge selection of dishes, and the beer!
STAY: Sister hotel to The Upper House, our Hong Kong favorite, The Opposite House has large rooms and some that are interconnecting. It’s also conveniently situated right next to Swire’s Tai Gu Li shopping and dining complex – ideal for popping out with the kids for a quick bite, or running to the supermarket for any forgotten items.
Very safe and oh-so-convenient to get around, and just 4 hours from Hong Kong, Tokyo is a true family paradise to satisfy tech-savvy dads, shopaholic mums and fun-loving kids at a go!
DO: Visiting Tokyo Disneyland, and Tokyo DisneySea, its water-themed sister park (think Venetian gondolas, Mermaid Lagoons & the Arabian Coast) needs no introduction but there’s more! Let kids make their own cup noodles at The Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama (30 min train ride from Tokyo), relish in huge games centers and technology showrooms at Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, or meet and greet the famous character Doraemon at the Doraemon Museum!
EAT: Grub up at Ninja Restaurant! Once you manage to find the entrance, guests proceed down a long dark hallway and are greeted by a Ninja who appears from a back door. Paths that look like you’re walking on water, bridges that appear after your Ninja utters a secret spell, and “special” menu items that are performed right on the table by the Ninjas themselves – a sure hit with kids.
STAY: One of the few Tokyo hotels that offer suites with interconnecting rooms, the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo has some of the best views in the city. They have children’s menus, can prepare special baby food, and can arrange babysitting upon request. The hotel also supplies special child amenities such as slippers, bath robes, baby skincare sets, and can childproof your room by covering up sharp corners.
Great food, beautiful beaches, and orangutans! What more could you ask for in a weekend getaway? Less than 3 hours away, Kota Kinabalu is on the northwest tip of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
DO: Take boat trips to neighboring islands for a spot of snorkeling, or just hang out at the Shangri La Rasa Ria’s huge beach – kids can play volleyball, boogie board during the right season, and it’s great for swimming. The Rasa Ria also has its own orangutan sanctuary, and kids over the age of 5 can pretend to be rangers for the day. Wildlife and bird watching, walks along the canopied walkways – everything about this resort and area is about being outdoors!
STAY: While there are plenty of other sites to visit around Borneo, in a weekend we really recommend getting yourself comfortable at the Shangri-La Rasa Ria and leaving it at that! All rooms are fit up to 2 adults and 2 children, and the children can have their own enormous daybed. We recommend rooms and suites in the newer Ocean Wing with hot tubs on the balcony overlooking the sea. The main pool has a special fenced off kid’s section with volleyball and slides.